No. 9 Kentucky 81, No. 12 Notre Dame 76

By Jennifer Smith
jsmith3@herald-leader.com
All summer long Kentucky was asked over and over again if last season’s trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight was a fluke.
The ninth-ranked Cats answered that question in a heavyweight matchup rarely seen this early in the season versus No. 12 Notre Dame with a 81-76 victory in front of 6,794 on Sunday. The win was UK’s 20th straight at Memorial Coliseum.
Playing shorthanded in the post against a much bigger Irish team, All-American Victoria Dunlap played nearly every second of the game and finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. The senior was joined in double digits by Keyla Snowden and Bernisha Pinkett, who hit some huge three-pointers as Notre Dame (2-2) made its late run.
The two guards finished with 17 points apiece. Pinkett, who set a new career high, also had five rebounds.
Natalie Novosel, a former Lexington Catholic teammate of Snowden, was great for the Irish, scoring 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Sophomore sensation Skylar Diggins added 18 points.
Notre Dame, coming off a double-overtime loss versus No. 15 UCLA just three days before, looked fresher early, grabbing a 9-2 lead, with Novosel providing the first seven points.
Kentucky crawled offensively, shooting just 27 percent from the field in the first 12 minutes of the game, including missing its first 11 tries from long range.
UK got its second wind late in the first half, using a 23-5 run behind eight points from Bernisha Pinkett to grab a 12-point lead 38-23 with 2:23 left in the first half. Pinkett had 10 points at the half.
Notre Dame responded with a 9-3 run of its own to close the half behind sophomore Kaila Turner’s five straight points, including a long three-point heave from 25 feet as time expired to make it 41-35.
With starting freshman forward Samantha Drake on the bench with a knee tweak, UK struggled at times against the Irish’s superior size and they were able to ride Becca Bruszewski — who scored 10 straight — to get within a point 66-65 with 6:33 to play.
UK answered with a Pinkett banked in three-pointer that spurred an 11-3 run.

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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